Tunisian diplomat kidnapped in Libya: security source

TRIPOLI (AFP) - A Tunisian diplomat was kidnapped Thursday in Tripoli in unknown circumstances, a Libyan security source told AFP, just two days after armed men seized Jordan's ambassador.

A Tunisian source confirmed the abduction and identified the diplomat as Al-Aroussi Kontassi, without giving further details.

Tunis's ambassador to Libya, Ridha Boukadi, refused to comment, but the Tunisian foreign ministry voiced concern over the "disappearance in obscure circumstances" of the diplomat.

Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Said Lessoued said he could not confirm or deny the reported abduction, the latest in a string of incidents targeting foreign diplomats and Libyan politicians.

A Tripoli police official, quoted by Al-Wassat news website, said the diplomat was seized by unknown assailants near the central Al-Kadissiya square not far from the Tunisian embassy.

If confirmed, the diplomat would be the second staffer from the Tunisian embassy abducted in the Libyan capital since March 21 when a man employed by the mission was seized.

His fate is still unknown.

The foreign ministry in Tunis issued a travel warning urging Tunisians to delay any planned visit to Libya and for those already in the country to restrict their movements.

"The Tunisian authorities are very preoccupied by the fact that Tunisian diplomats in Libya are being targeted," the statement said.

"Tunisians in Libya should exercise caution in these exceptional circumstances" while those planning to visit "should postpone their trip unless it is urgent".

Diplomats in Tripoli say militias that fought to topple the Moamer Kadhafi regime in the 2011 uprising often carry out kidnappings in order to blackmail other countries into releasing Libyans held abroad.

On Tuesday, masked gunmen kidnapped Jordan's ambassador, Fawaz Aitan, as he was going to work in Tripoli, shooting at his car and wounding his driver.

Libya has been gripped by increasing lawlessness since NATO-backed rebels ended the four-year reign of the autocratic Kadhafi, who was killed in the 2011 uprising.

Over the past three years the North African country has seen near daily attacks targeting security forces, a rebellion that blockaded vital oil terminals for nine months and a growing crisis stemming from the interim parliament's decision to extend its mandate.